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Wednesday, April 23rd 2014


Yet Another Sabbath Healing

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: just tired
Stuff in Motel Room

To my amazement, while June and I were on our recent trip, somehow spring managed to wheedle its way into Indiana. Over the two or so weeks of the trip, given the different latitudes and altitudes, we experienced pretty much all four seasons. But the best part, meteorologically speaking, was to come home and find that, at least for now, spring has finally settled in. Thus, before making a few remarks in the context of Luke, here are some recent pictures.

First, I thought I'd show you what a model traveler I am. These days, at least for me, to travel means to travel with gadgets: the computer, the power pack, the cell phone and its charger, the power strip with the long cord, the camera and its charger, the correct USB cords, the back-up charger and its connector, the headset, the Power Point clicker .... As always, I came home with a few hotel key cards that I couldn't find and return at check-out time, but that later appeared in some part of my neatly and efficiently packed luggage.

The second pictures is of Amber holding one of Haven's puppies. Haven, in case you are new to this circle, is a Great Dane. Ok, in case you're really new to this circle, I suppose I should also point out that Amber is one of our two wonderful daughters-in-law (to go with our two sons--we're not Mormons).

Amber with Haven's puppy

Now then for the spring flower pictures, which should not need any explanation, except perhaps the annual production of little sausages provided by the birch tree in front of the house. I'm assuming that they are the counterpart two flowers for them, if not actually flowers themselves, but am not going to spend time looking up that piece of information right now. The subject is "Spring," not "Botany."

Hyacinths white and yellow daffodil
yellow daffodil red tuplip birch tree sausages

I do hope that I'm not smug or boastful about what follows, but on the recent trip, once we got to Denver, June's computer had stopped working. To put it into simple terms, on boot-up it would fizzle out rather than go to Windows. I tried my best to fix it once we were home, but was not successful. We consulted some other people who put us on the right track, but were not able to do anything without having the proper software. So, I downloaded some software to create a rescue disk, but it didn't work. Then today we took the computer to the store where we had purchased it, and those folks weren't able to help. So, late this afternoon, I tried one more time, taking it slowly and making sure I followed all instructions, and to my great surprise, after I hit all of the proper keys, the computer started to fix itself.

Unfortunately, the computer ended up as though it had never been used before, viz., with all of the pre-installed software and nothing but the pre-installed software. There had been no way for me to save June's data or the programs she had installed, so she is in for a few days of remembering what should be there, finding the data on the back-up site, and hopefully getting it all to work again.

Luke Bible Study      

Bible Reading:
Luke 14:1-6

v. 4:  But they kept silent. He took the man, healed him, and sent him away.(HCSB)

We need to get back to the right sequence in Luke, which I broke a little while back since I wanted to display the contrast between Jesus' parable of the "prodigal son" and the Buddhist parable of the "returning son," the latter of which had been a part of my presentation at ISCA. So we need to turn back a page or so (or maybe scroll back a few screens) and look at the beginning of chapter 14.

And as you do glance at the first six verses of this chapter, your first thought may be: "Haven't we just read this episode?" A little closer look reveals that, even though a chapter 13:10-17 and tonight's passage both address the controversy of healing on the Sabbath, they are very different events. In the earlier story, there was a disabled woman in the synagogue where Jesus was preaching. Jesus healed her, and the leader of the synagogue rebuked the woman. Jesus defended both her and himself by pointing out that, if it was legal to untie a barnyard animal on the Sabbath, surely there was nothing wrong with untying a woman from her demonic bonds.

In this passage, both the circumstances and the order of events are different. For one thing, Jesus is having the Sabbath meal at the home of a Pharisee. In minimal terms, this occurrence at least that not all Pharisees hated Jesus. I've mentioned before that there was a large split among the Pharisees between the very conservative "House of Shammai" and the more liberal "House of Hillel," and I've ventured to conjecture that those who were particularly hostile to Jesus and accused him of breaking the Law were more likely the followers of Shammai. I would assume (and it can't be anything more than a moderately educated assumption) that the Pharisee who was hosting Jesus as well as the other guests belonged to Beth Hillel.

Still, even if these Pharisees belonged to the more liberal form of rabbinic Judaism, they were committed to keeping the Law, and our text indicates that they were "watching" Jesus. Were they curious to see how Jesus was applying the Law, or were they hoping to catch him in the act of breaking it? The text doesn't say one way or the other, and different people there may very well have had different motives. Regardless Jesus was under their scrutiny.

Right in front of Jesus was a very sick man. Our translation, quite properly avoiding a specific diagnosis, simply says that "his body was swollen with fluids." Many English translations use the term "Dropsy," and I don't know to what extent that term is still a part of our vocabulary. When I looked it up on the Wikipedia, it directed me to "Edema," a word to which I was used, going back to my days of working in a hospital. It refers to a swelling of a part of the body (e.g., one can have edema of the legs) or, as in this case, of the entire body due to liquids collecting under the skin. I almost suspect that the Pharisees had deliberately planted the man there in order to see whether Jesus would once again heal someone on the Sabbath, but, again, their eventual reaction seems to be a little too subdued if they had meant to entrap Jesus. We find here a noticeable contrast to, say, the furor that resulted from yet another Sabbath-healing, as described in Luke 6:11. The bottom line is that Jesus was facing a man who was desperately in need of healing.

Let me remind you of what I wrote with a few more details a little more than a month ago: The Mishna, the collection of laws compiled in the second and third century AD, in tractate Shabbat 109 specifies not only that professional healers and doctors should not carry out their work on the Sabbath, but even that it is wrong to administer healing herbs to oneself. We cannot say to what extent this rule was accepted in the first century (i.e. at the time of Jesus), but it obviously had its supporters already. 

Luke describes what Jesus did next as "in response to" the sick man before him. If he was a plant, Jesus took the bait. If he was not, Jesus reacted to him out of compassion. Come to think of it, the former (taking the bait) would most likely have been due to his compassion as well. But he did not heal the man immediately. This time it was Jesus who opened the debate on the Law. He looked at the gathering of legal experts and rabbis and said (in paraphrase): "Well, gentlemen, what do you think? Is it lawful the heal someone on the Sabbath?"

What a wonderful rhetorical move! Jesus consulted the authorities on whether it would be proper for him to heal the edematous man. And the potential subject of dispute was sitting right there, hearing what--if anything--would be said by his (presumptive) friends or acquaintances. The lawyers and rabbis were over a barrel. Were they going to say right in front of the man that it would be wrong for Jesus to heal him on that day while he had the chance to be in Jesus' presence? Or would they let their human instincts take over and give Jesus official permission, as it were, to heal the suffering man? They said nothing.

It must have been clear to them at that moment that this particular interpretation of the Law, which was not found in their Scriptures (the Old Testament), stood in clear contradiction to a basic human reaction to suffering. Yet they dared not voice their feelings. It is one thing to argue out the fine points of the Law (pilpul) in the Yeshiva or the synagogues as hypothetical case studies (cf. the Jesuit practice of "casuistry"), it's quite another to maintain a theoretical position in real life with real human suffering at stake. Still, their loyalty to the Law kept them from saying anything.

So, not hearing any opposition (as though it had mattered), Jesus healed the man and sent him home. Then he addressed his learned audience with a rhetorical question. I guess theoretically someone could have responded, but apparently standing mute (or reclining mute at the table) was the only acceptable response. Again, if you're new to this blog, when recounting narratives please recognize that I like to paraphrase. "Please consider this fact: We all know that any one of you would rescue your son or your ox if they dropped into a well, regardless of whether it's Sabbath or not." As I said, they did not say anything in return. They must have had the same feelings of compassion as any other person, but they had also tied themselves to the human application of the Law.

Jesus is demonstrating here the difference between commitment to the Law and commitment to the God who gave the Law. The Law was good insofar as it came from God, but it could not accommodate all of life because it was never intended to do so. Obedience to the Law was not an end in itself; it was supposed to be an expression of obedience to the personal God who provided the Law. Jesus, who is this personal God incarnate, showed that true obedience to God does not allow a human interpretation of the Law overrule the instincts for good with which God has created us.

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Monday, April 21st 2014


The Curious Case of Cardinal Cajetan

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: My jaw hurts.

I trust that everyone had a good Easter, celebrating the fact that we have a risen Savior. We are happy to be home again--at least for a while. Today (Monday) I had a return visit to Dr. D, my dentist, who replaced the pre-temporary stumps with temporary teeth. He and his assistant spent a good two hours chiseling, digging, drilling and flushing in my mouth. I'm supposed to get the real ones on Tuesday of next week.


Frederick the Wise

There has been some discussion going on in my little circle with regard to the topic of Protestantism and Catholicism, and I would like to add an interesting case study to the conversation. I'm assuming that I'm writing for a literate audience who do not hold the beliefs of their confession lightly. Above all, my hope is that you trust in nothing but Jesus and his atoning work for your salvation.

Still, apropos of that topic, I thought that it would be helpful to recount some matters concerning Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan, who had been Martin Luther's examiner at the Diet of Augsburg in 1518. I researched this material a couple of years ago for a friend, and he incorporated some of it in a paper he delivered at a conference of which I know nothing else. (He did give me some kind footnotes.) What follows here is a slightly edited version of the information. My most central source is Robert C. Jenkins, Pre-Tridentine Doctrine: A Review of the Commentary on the Scriptures of Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan (London: D. Nutt, 1906). The story is remarkable.

As mentioned, Thomas de Vio and Martin Luther had their encounter at the Diet of Augsburg in 1518. A "diet" was the official annual meeting of the king or emperor with the assembled princes of the Holy Roman Empire; if necessary the most high-ranking princes called "Electors" could elevate a king or one of their own status to the office of Emperor. As we all know, the Vatican had a serious interest in the politics of the day, and the diet could address matters of theological import, as evidenced by this one in 1518 and the best known one, held at Worms in 1521.

Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan

Cajetan was the pope's man. He co-authored the papal bull condemning Luther in 1519, and he counseled the pope to forbid Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon. Then as now, there has always been an issue of how exclusive the authority of a pope is, the other two contenders being the college of cardinals or a general council. Cardinal Cajetan fell into the category of "decretalists," a term that in canon law refers to someone who builds his jurisprudence on the decrees (“decretals”) issued by the popes. At the outset of Luther's reformation activities, numerous people called for a council to adjudicate the theological issues between Luther and the Church. The pope, Leo X, supported by Cajetan, thought that the Holy Office had sufficient power to handle the situation on its own. 

Luther's prince, the Elector of Saxony and Graf of Thuringia, was Frederick III, also known as Frederick the Wise. At the time he was on good terms with Leo X. In fact, Leo was hoping that Frederick would become the next emperor after Maximillian I, a wish that was not fulfilled. I don't know why Frederick requested that Cajetan should be Luther's official examiner; my guess is that he wanted to make sure that the inquest should be carried out by someone with a reputation as a sincere Christian and serious scholar. The stereotypical view of Thomas de Vio is that he was a dyed-in-the-wool defender of Catholicism, who was immured in dogma and immutable in his convictions. No doubt, Leo was happy to send him to Augsburg to represent his authority. 

Cajetan and LutherProtestants and Catholics will perhaps never agree on who “won” the debate at Augsburg. Cajetan would try to bludgeon Luther with the authority of the Church and her doctrines, while Luther kept quoting Bible verses and challenging Cajetan to produce scriptural support for his views. Catholic accounts tend to emphasize Luther's supposed crudity, while Protestants focus on Cajetan's dogmatic attitude. In the immediate aftermath of the dispute, one might have considered it to have been a draw.

But there was one man who knew that he had been beaten, namely Thomas de Vio himself. He did contribute to the bull condemning Luther. But very specifically, he had become aware that, when challenged by Luther to ground his views in Scripture, he was incapable of doing so. Consequently, he decided to devote the rest of his life to studying the Bible, and he learned the original languages, Greek and Hebrew, for that purpose. Doing so had immediately become routine for the training of Protestant ministers, but for Catholics it was still a remarkable rarity. In fact, in order to assert their opposition to Protestantism, the Catholic bishops confirmed the Vulgate (the Latin Bible) as the authoritative version of the Bible.

However, consider the title of the book I mentioned above as my central source. Cajetan had actually written a commentary on the Bible, based on the Hebrew and Greek texts. By the time of his death, he had accepted the very views of Luther's against which he had debated in 1518, though embraced neither Luther’s subsequent developments nor the Reformation as a separate movement. For example, at the end he agreed with Luther’s views in favor of justification by faith alone and against the value of indulgences. However, he had always hoped to reunify the Church. Sadly, he and a number of other scholars who had genuinely wrestled with the issues raised by Luther and Calvin, had either passed away or were too incapacitated to attend the Council of Trent.

Jenkins reports:

    "In his letter on the Council addressed to Mgr. Galeazzo Fiorimondo da Sessa, Bishop of Aquino, [Cajetan] proposes that all the bishops who are called to the Council should be strictly examined in life and doctrine, and if unworthy should be set aside. All who have gained their offices through the favour [sic] of Princes or by ambition, or by admission to offices in Rome (per entrate d'offitii in Roma) or through wicked arts should be removed. If this were done he predicts the speedy return to the Church of all Christian people" (Pre-tridentine Doctrine, 10).

Nothing of the kind happened. The Council of Trent consisted of three separate conferences, called by three different popes, between 1545 and 1563.  Even though politics, both internal and external, spread out the council over these three periods, divided into twenty-five sessions, the amount of time spent was not proportional to the amount of theological reflection. This council was supposed to be the long-sought-for opportunity to discuss the issues of the Reformation. Instead it turned into a series of rallies against Protestantism. For a few moments, Protestants actually were assured safe conduct to attend the meetings, though without the right to vote. However, they did not accept the invitation, considering that similar assurances had been issued to John Hus for the Council of Florence in the previous century, where he was arrested and eventually burned at the stake.

Attendance at the council was erratic, dominated by uneducated representatives from Italy and Spain who had no great interest in taking the issues of the Reformation seriously and likely would not have been able to sort them out if they had. Many of the bishops had received their success precisely by the sordid means that Cajetan had wanted to rule out. Theological knowledge was of no particular value to them. They certainly were happy to condemn "excesses" in the abstract, but they were not about to place themselves outside of the system that had worked for them, let alone to replace the system.

Without consulting the diligent scholarship of men like Cajetan, they robotically repeated the traditional lines prescribed by the Vatican and made them the mandatory standards of orthodoxy, which were then heartily endorsed by the pope, whose advisers had prescribed them in the first place. No wonder that one is hard put to find consistency among the decrees coming out of Trent, as Paul Krisak mentioned in his contribution to my website on that and other issues. Among further statements, it pronounced anathema on the beliefs that:

  • The impious is justified by faith alone—if this means that nothing else is required by way of co-operation in the acquisition of the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary for a man to be prepared and disposed by the motion of his own will  (Canons on Justification, 9);
  • That a man reborn and justified is bound by faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate (Canons on Justification, 15).
  • That justification, once received is not preserved and even increased in the sight of God through good works; but that these good works are only fruits and signs of justification, not cause of its increase (Canons on Justification, 24).

It is highly unlikely that Cajetan would have voted for or signed those statements.

As a philosopher, Cajetan was willing to take the thoughts of contemporary renaissance thinkers into account, and, as we just mentioned, eventually pursued studies along the lines of what was called "humanism," viz. consulting the ancient sources, especially the Scriptures in their original languages and setting aside the Vulgate as unreliable. The champion of papal orthodoxy in 1518/19 had become a controversial figure himself by 1534, eventually subject to an investigation into his own orthodoxy.  

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Friday, April 18th 2014


Home from the Wild West

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: exhausted and happy

June and I got home this afternoon. It was a long, good trip. I'm finding that I'm way too tired to get a blog entry together, so here's just a picture of one of our stops along the way. It was definitely the deluxe tour all the way around.

Coyote Cantina, somewhere in Colorado

More tomorrow!

Also, I'm planning on being at Cowboy Church tomorrow night (Trinity Methodist in Hartford City, IN, 7 pm) so that I can show off the hat I bought at Boot Hill in Dodge City.

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Wednesday, April 16th 2014


Getting out of Dodge!

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: moving on
Dodge City obviously was a very different experience compared to the previous days of seeing the wonders of nature as God has created them. I'm tempted to say something along the line that historically Dodge City could be considered to be a monument to the depravity of the human race, but that wouldn't really be fair. Human depravity manifests itself anywhere, anytime, and there are many places where it was probably far more intensely visible. Furthermore, I think one should be at least a little inspired by, say, Wyatt Earp--if not by the historical person, then at least by the legend as it had been perpetuated in stories and black & white TV programs. There was a time when we saw these figures as symbols of good victorious over evil. Even if the actual people weren't as good and pure as their legacy has invented them to be, that legacy points us to a time when people still thought in terms of objective good and evil. Nowadays, how can the sheriff gun down the bad guy in a street duel if the bad guy's only fault is that he came from a culture that taught him that it's a good thing to shoot deputies? Bring back the symbols!

Gunfight in Dodge City

I might just add that this picture does not represent an illustration of appropriate evangelism or apologetics techniques.

Dodge City grew up for the most part subsequent to the disputes with the Native American tribes formerly of that area. As mentioned before, and as described with a little more detail elsewhere, Kansas was the site of quite a bit of fighting between the U.S. Army and militias against the loose coalition of Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and some of the Sioux. The boot hill museum brought up this topic in its introduction video and gave me a new insight. I've known for a long time, of course, that the massacre of bison eventually contributed seriously to the defeat of the tribes who were dependent on buffaloes for their subsistence. I've always thought of these "excursions" by "hunters," who would shoot thousands of bison from trains, as merely an exhibition of human cruelty and stupidity. The video pointed out that these killings were an intentional, planned, aspect of the extermination of American Indians. The simple strategy was that, if you could not defeat them in battle, you could nevertheless get them out of the way by depriving them of their means of livelihood. 

Roman NoseBison Exhibit

The museum had a picture of the Cheyenne leader Roman Nose (aka. "Crooked Nose" or "Hook Nose") together with two other warriors. I've singled out the picture of Roman Nose and spruced it up a bit (i.e. provided color) because he's the most famous one. Though technically not a chief, Roman Nose was a fierce warrior, and, wherever he fought, his fellow tribesmen followed him. For a time, he agreed with the supreme Chief Black Kettle in pursuing a policy of peace. However, along with many other American Indians across tribal boundaries, he changed his mind after the Sand Creek Massacre and parted company with Black Kettle. He joined the feared "Dog Soldiers" in several successful armed actions. The plaque at the museum simply stated that his eventual death was accounted for by an apparent breach of a taboo concerning his war bonnet. More specifically, he had received the bonnet from a medicine man who told him that it would provide him with invulnerability under two conditions: 1) He should never shake hands with anyone in the manner of white people; 2) He should never eat any food that had been handled with an iron implement. On the night before his last battle (Beecher Island, Sept. 17, 1868), he had eaten some bread that a Sioux woman had lifted with an iron fork.

Speaking of women among the plains tribes, the museum also had a display of a "squaw" in the process or erecting a tipi. On an accompanying plaque there was a delightful lesson in "Tipi Etiquette":

Woman at Tipi

If the tipi door was open friends could walk in. If it was closed they had to call out or rattle the door and await an invitation to enter. Two crossed sticks over a tipi door meant owners were away or desired no company.
Generally men sat on the north side and women on the south. Women did not sit cross-legged as did men, but with both their legs folded to one side or on their knees. Children stayed near the door, free to run and play when they pleased, but not inside. On entering the tipi, the man moved to the right and the woman to the left. Whenever possible, it was proper to walk behind a seated person. No one stepped across the altar of the fire. At a feast, adult men were served first. The host waited until the guests had been served and had eaten before partaking of the food. They offended the host if they refused anything offered them. When a pipe was smoked in a tipi with both genders, it was lighted by the headman in the rear of the lodge. The pipe was passed to the left, and the stem was always pointed to the left. When the host cleaned his pipe and laid it aside, that was the signal that the meeting was over and everyone was expected to leave. Indians did not waste time on long farewells.

Winnetou's Silver RifleOne other item from the Boot Hill Museum. This one also relates to Native American,  but more specifically to the ones that sprang out the imagination of the German author Karl May. Thus this item may only be of interest to any German readers of my blog. Karl May's hero, the noble Winnetou, chief of all Apaches (don't try to find him in any history books), carried a rifle that was decorated with silver nails, his celebrated Silberbüchse. I've often wondered whether such a weapon was possible, and whether it was at all realistic. It turns out that the museum displayed a rifle that had at one time been owned by an American Indian, which was, in fact, decorated with nails. In his case, the nails may have had distinct colors at one time, but the colorations were pretty much gone. With the help of Paintshop Pro, I attempted to convert the indifferent colors into Winnetou's silver. So, here is a picture of an authentic Indian weapon, somewhat edited, the likes of which may have served Karl May as model for Winnetou's Silberbüchse.

Yesterday we made our way to Kansas City. Along the way we met up with Rose Carkeet Thornbury and her husband, Scott, outside of Manhattan Kansas. We had a good time catching up and hearing about their ministry with foreign students as well as their excitement for wherever God will lead them next, once Scott is done with his military commitment.

Then, last night, June and I had dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory with Nirmal Singh Samuel, Trey Jadlow, Dan Guinn, and Jason Shaitel, all of them associated with Francis Schaeffer Studies.org. This is a huge restaurant that specializes in unique cuisine of virtually all ethnicities and--unsurprisingly--cheesecake deserts. The discussion was invigorating to me, and hopefully helpful for our friends as well.

Apologetics Dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory

As you read this, June and I are somewhere west of the Atlantic Ocean and east of the Pacific. In terms of latitude we are north of Mexico and south of Canada. We hope to be home soon.

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Monday, April 14th 2014


Getting into Dodge! (Kansas, that is.)

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: tired, but good

Dodge City

Last night June and I agreed that yesterday's drive had been a little bit too long for my tolerance, so we decided to go a much shorter distance today. I checked on the map if there was anything interesting only a few hours away, and found that just a short distance off our route was Dodge City, KS, home of some of the heroes of half-hour black and white TV shows some time ago: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, etc.

On the drive to Lamar yesterday, we passed a sign pointing the way to a memorial of the Sand Creek Massacre. So very briefly I toyed with the idea of taking today to pay it a visit, but then it would have been pure backtracking and then going another forty-seven miles from there, and it didn't seem the best thing to do under the circumstances. A memorial is a good thing, but visiting it doesn't undo the damage, and I've already expressed my opinion about that sick occurrence in the above list.

It is extremely cold here. Last I checked, it was 32°F and going down, with an incredibly strong wind contributing to the freeze In fact, tomorrow's forecast is for snow. Here I thought we had been done with all of that. Most likely, we're not going to try to continue the drive tomorrow but wait until Tuesday, when fair weather is predicted again. We'll probably visit Boot Hill and see if there's anything worthwhile to see.

I don't know whether there will be opportunities here for serious learning. Fort Mann, not too far from here, was destroyed in 1848 by Apaches, Comanches, and Arapahoes. It no longer exists. The road we've been traveling the last couple of days follows the so-called Santa Fe Trail, along which "immigrants" were moving their wagons towards New Mexico under constant danger of attack by hostile Indians, who for some reason thought that the U.S. government would honor its treaties. Fort Dodge was built much later, and does not seem to have been involved very much (if at all) in the so-called Indian wars.

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures I took while standing outside the car and shivering.

Wyatt Earp BlvdDoc Holliday

How appropriate that a liquor store should be named after Doc Holliday!

This area is clearly all about cattle. We passed several major stockyards. Unfortunately it's really not possible to catch the immensity of these places with a camera, even by stitching together two pictures taken with a wide angle lens.

Stock yard outside of Dodge City

This trip has taken on dimensions that we had not foreseen. In many ways a trip composed of serendipities is the best kind. We feel secure in the Lord's guidance and his hand over us as we continue to travel.

I still need to get a real Western cowboy hat that I can wear to Cowboy Church on Saturday--Lord willing!

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Sunday, April 13th 2014


Farewell to Colorado


Farewell, Colorado! Greetings from Lamar, Colorado. Yes, regretfully, though not sadly, we decided that after that lengthy and enjoyable stay in Cortez, we really couldn't rationalize going further south and west (viz. away from home), adding at least two, more likely three, days to the trip. We set our sails eastward, grateful for all that we've experienced so far--and we're not home yet. The stay in Cortez turned out to be so good that we both agreed that there was no need to go on and possibly turning the trip into a drain. As I think I mentioned, we spent most of Thursday back in Mesa Verde, and yesterday (Friday) I visited the Anasazi National Heritage Monument, which contains a museum and two pueblo "houses." Eventually, I'll get more technical about these things, but somewhere along the line I need to finish the "physics" series first. And for that, I need to be at home so that I can double-check my information. So, right now, we'll stick with the more narrative stuff, following my usual process.

Technically, we're still in Colorado, but the landscape is definitely Kansas already.

So, about the truck. Here's the mechanical wrap-up. It's a 4 x 4. In 2-wheel drive only the rear wheels have power; for 4-wheel drive the front wheels are also engaged. So, there are two drive shafts, one for the rear wheels, and the additional one for the front when one goes into 4-wheel mode. They meet in the "transfer case." As it turned out, my forward drive shaft had gotten totally deformed, and it smashed the transfer case. (Nasty, unscrupulous drive shaft!) The good folks at the repair shop in Cortez were able to find a set for the 2004 Dakota at a salvage yard (This is standard practice; there were no new ones available without waiting for several months). The case was fine, and the service manager Jeff and his crew were able to mount it just right. The front drive shaft that came with it was about as trashy as mine, so they left it out. Jeff assured me that it is perfectly safe, and it was running great today, the only drawback for now is that I won't have 4-wheel drive until a new front drive shaft is installed, which I can get done in Indiana. But since we're hopefully past the snow and ice, and we're not heading into the desert any time soon, there's no pressure. Again, thank you to the encourager who paid for the repair! Also, thanks to everyone involved; everybody was extremely nice and accommodating.

As I hiked up the little hill at the Anasazi Monument, there was an overlook with a plaque that told the following story about Ute Mountain, located in Colorado close to Utah:

    "In the very old days, Sleeping Ute Mountain was a great warrior god. He fought against Evil Ones who were causing much trouble. During a battle between the Warrior God and the Evil Ones, the Warrior God was hurt. He lay down to rest and fell into a deep sleep. The blood from his wounds turned into water for all creatures to drink. The Warrior God has four blankets, which he changes each season. He wears his light green blanket in spring, his dark green blanket in summer. In the fall his blanket is red and yellow, and his winter blanket is white. The Warrior God can be seen on the horizon lying on his back, arms folded across his chest, his feathered headdress laid out to the north behind his head. Someday he will rise again to help his people fight against their enemies."

The plaque also provided a drawing of how the sleeping Indian should be seen. I photographed it, left only the lines, and tried to make it fit as best as I could. Run your mouse over the picture to see the image.

I'm really getting tired, so I'll have to quit. I'll leave you with a picture of the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde


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Friday, April 11th 2014



  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: thankful
  • IN THE BACKDROP: a chattering prairie dog
I just picked up our fixed Dodge Dakota from the dealer. A huge THANK YOU to the anonymous person who picked up the tab on it.  I'm humbled, flabbergasted, and deeply grateful. 
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Thursday, April 10th 2014


From Cortez: All around Colorado Springs

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: Glad to be here, despite the problems

As expected, here we are, still in Cortez, Colorado. The manager of the auto shop called this afternoon to reassure us that everything is still going as planned. Actually, that translates into the fact that nothing is going yet, but it looks like it will get going tomorrow (Friday), which is the plan. The parts are supposed to come in sometime tomorrow before noon. Then he will call again to let us know the prospects for getting the work done so that we can head homewards.

Garden of the Gods, ColoradoToday we took the rented car back up into Mesa Verde, and I'll save my report until after I have told you about last Sunday.

We made a casual start on Sunday with Carolee D. as our guide to Colorado Springs and environs. Both June and I had been there before. For me the first time was in 1984 for a conference on Values in Liberal Arts or something along that line, sponsored by the Lily Foundation. Then about ten years ago or so, both of us were there for the ETS conference and rented a car afterwards to spend some time at the Garden of the Gods and a few other scenic areas. In the meantime, the area has grown quite a bit, and Carolee knew of a lot more places to marvel at.

We did make a fairly lengthy stop on the way to Colorado Springs in an unsuccessful attempt to discover the reason for an occasional odor emanating from the pickup's engine. Not finding anything, we went on, and nothing bad happened. For that we would have to wait until Tuesday afternoon.

The first area we entered was Glen Eyrie, the headquarters of "The Navigators," a Christian discipleship organization. We were permitted to drive around their area. The scenery was spectacular.

    Actually that particular sentence will needs to be repeated endless times in various permutations in these next upcoming entries. Maybe from time to time I'll just abbreviate: TSWS. Also, I might just mention that I'd really be tickled if anyone used one of my scenery pictures for their computer desktop! I would definitely be willing to part with a free book upon receiving that information and confirmation. 

Glen Eyrie

As I said, the scenery was spectacular with amazing rock formations.

Also, let us not forget about the herd/flock of bighorn sheep. I'm a little puzzled on the proper language here. Normally, a set of sheep is called a "flock." But does that term also apply to wild bighorn sheep?--- I just looked at a National Geographic web site, and they referred to their aggregate as a "herd," so "herd" it shall be. I have crossed out "flock."

Bighorn Sheep

From there we went to the park called The Garden of the Gods and then to the Red Rock Canyon Open Space. I wish it made sense to post huge amounts pictures here, but a few samples will have to suffice. Sooner or later I should put a picture album together. What I'm getting at is, of course, TSWS.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space

The commercial part of old Colorado Springs has become ever more colorful. There actually were two shops selling Tibetan items, as well as articles of other Asian religions. Carolee and I went into one and had a good conversation with the shopkeeper, who hailed from Nepal and called himself a "Tibetan Buddhist-Hindu-Christian." He permitted me to take a picture of the "prayer wheels" for sale in his shop. (For more information on these implements, please go to the Tibetan section of the Dharma2Grace web site.

Tibetan Prayer Wheels

I might just mention that there were a few customers, and they were clearly not from Nepal or Tibet nor from any other foreign country, except maybe Canada. Forgive me for mounting my pulpit. However, Buddhism is continuing to grow in the United States, and--as far as I can tell--few Christian (by that I mean genuine evangelical) apologists seem to be interested in taking the time to learn about this religion. A few short, clever, and usually wrong arguments are not sufficient to respond to the intellectual challenges to Christianity coming from Buddhism.

After driving up and down the narrow switchbacks overlooking Manitou Springs, we headed back to Castle Rock. But one more stop was inevitable on the itinerary: a new Hindu temple to explore. This is a Vaishnavite temple, though the picture I got is of Shiva and Parvati.


Shiva and Parvati on Nandi

Apparently the temple is situated to serve (Asian) Indian folks in both Denver and Colorado Springs. My impression is that they are about as far along in establishing their building as the relatively new temple in Indianapolis, though--come to think of it--I haven't visited it since the last time I was there with Taylor students. That seems forever ago by now.

Let me close out this entry with a picture from Monday's drive from Castle Rock to Durango, Co. That'll get us caught up fairly well, and I can devote the next post or two to Mesa Verde and the Anasazi people. Let this mountain remind us of the great God who made it and gave us the faculty for perceiving beauty.

Colorado Mountain

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Wednesday, April 9th 2014


From Cortez: ISCA and the Lost Son


There are two melodies that have been alternating through my mind today. "Here we are in the Tijuana Jail ..." and "Cool Water." Neither one of them is really appropriate to our unplanned stay here in Cortez, Co, but that doesn't mean that they don't intrude. The official diagnosis of our 2004 Dodge Dakota is a broken transfer case. The shop manager thought that they may get the parts and have them installed by Friday (I'm writing this on Wednesday). We'll see. In the meantime we were able to rent a little white KIA, and so hopefully we'll be able to get back to Mesa Verde and maybe even do some more exploring in the vicinity while we're waiting.

This morning I took a lengthy hike (at least by my standards) in the Hawkins Preserve. I really enjoyed being out there in real wilderness.

Trail in Hawkins Preserve

On the return leg I suddenly saw a big man with a large dog coming onto the trail. I was a little concerned, so I stepped to the side and took a picture of some cacti. When I looked up, he not only was still there, he was coming up to me. So I moved towards him and said, "Hello!" He returned the greeting and inquired as to whether I had seen the dragon yet. I responded by pointing out that I didn't know of any local dragons and hadn't seen any. He asked me to look behind me, which I did, and--sure enough--there it was, the Hawkins Preserve Dragon.

Hawkins Preserve Dragon

The gentleman told me that he thought I wouldn't have wanted to miss. I agreed, thanked him, and trudged on.

Judge Phil GinnIn keeping with my intention of catching up with days previous to yesterday, tonight I'll quickly touch on the ISCA conference last Friday and Saturday. The no. 1 benefit was spending time with people we usually see only once a year, though some, such as Norm and Barb Geisler, we had been with back in October. As far as workshop sessions go, I obviously was there for my two (more on those below), one by C. D., and one by Trevor Slone. The plenary sessions were of varying value. One of them, though well-delivered, confused me, and I'm not happy how the aspects of his speech that are not constructive are being promoted. The speaker stressed that in the matter of "fighting" for biblical values, we were engaged in a spiritual struggle, not a physical one. But then, among other points, what he advocated was military engagements in various places around the world and political action at home. Though I don't necessarily want to dismiss either course of action categorically, I'm not sure how either one follows from his biblical premise.

My favorite plenary address was given by Judge Phil Quinn (who took a course with me once upon a time). He brought up a lot of solid facts, and then ended with just the right conclusion. With regard to evangelicals over the last few decades he declared: "We have compromised the integrity of our message for the privilege of having a glass of iced tea at the governor's mansion or at the White House. ...  Christ's Church has not been called to the primary purpose of influencing culture by political means." (Please note that the judge is not prohibiting such activities, but that he referring to our true message and our primary purpose.)

I believe ISCA is making at least audio versions of all of the presentations available fairly soon.


Luke Bible Study      

Bible Reading:
Luke 15:11-32

v. 20:  So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him.(HCSB)

Yes, I know that I have just skipped a chapter and a half in Luke, but we'll get back to that content. Since I made use of the Buddhist parable of the Lost Son in my ISCA presentation, I thought that I could bring it up here, if for no other reason than to provide the basis for a contrast with the somewhat similar parable in Luke. I'll address the biblical parable again when it actually becomes its turn. Let's just keep in mind the basics of the story that Jesus told: A young man cashed in on his inheritance prior to the death of his father. He traveled abroad with a full purse and had a great time partying with so-called friends until eventually the money ran out. Simultaneously, so did his party companions. Reduced to a state of radical impoverishment, he decided to return home and offer his services as unpaid slave to his father. However, his father saw him coming from afar, recognized him, and ran out to embrace him. The father then gave him a golden ring and ordered that a big feast should be held in the son's honor. The young man's older brother ...  But we'll talk about him later. The obvious point of the parable is an illustration of God's unconditional grace and love.

Now, for the contrast, (with permission) I'm basically going to reproduce the story as it is recounted in the section on Mahayana Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra on the Dharma2Grace web site.

In the Lotus Sutra we find the story of the “lost son,” which in some ways bears a resemblance to Jesus’ parable of the “prodigal son.” Now, I need to make clear at the outset that the primary point of the Buddhist parable is not the same as the biblical one. The fundamental lesson here is that, even though it may take an extremely long time for a bodhisattva to become a Buddha, it will eventually happen. Still, we cannot completely ignore the attitude towards family members that is displayed in this narrative; namely, that they constitute a potential hindrance to a person's spiritual development.

The story begins when a man's only son gave in to various enticements and left home to seek his fortune. He did not find it, but instead dropped to the very bottom of society. He became a vagrant who was poor, hungry, filthy, diseased, and, needless to say, thoroughly unhappy. He wandered from town to town, most of the time living on what little he received by begging. His father, on the other hand, achieved a high level of material success. He moved to a different country, where he enjoyed all the good stuff that comes with having more money than you know what to do with.

In his meanderings, fifty years after the original split, the son happened to reach his father's mansion with its surrounding estate. (The numbers are unrealistic, but that's okay since this is clearly fiction, and the emphasis is supposed to be on extended periods of time.) The son did not know that this was the father's new residence, and he did not recognize his father either. He only saw a pompous old man directing various activities that would undoubtedly increase his wealth even further. The son was smart enough to recognize that he did not belong there, and that the chances of his receiving any food were extremely low. More likely, he feared, he would be pressed into slave labor with no compensation whatever. Consequently, after looking at this opulent property for a few minutes, he decided that he was better off trying to find some minimal nourishment in the nearby village. He turned around and headed back the way he had come.

Buddhist Parable of the Lost SonHowever, although the son had not recognized the father, the father, even with such a short glimpse, was pretty convinced that he had just seen his son. He sent two of his men after him to bring him back. They were not to identify themselves nor to disclose anything else that might reveal any connection between son and father. Their only message to him was that someone had a job for him, and that he would receive food in return.

Here it is where the biblical story and the one in the Lotus Sutra really diverge. The father assessed that the son was not yet ready to be recognized as his offspring. The father reasoned that he son himself would probably would not accept his true status as a fact, and, in any case, he was in no way fit to assume the position as heir to this luxurious estate. So, he put him to work shoveling manure. The sutra is quite explicit in describing how disgusting the material was that the son had to clear away. And he continued to do so--for twenty years. He slept in a hovel outside of the stables and received his daily ration of food, and the father left things that way for two decades.

It was only when the father was on his death bed that he made the public announcement that this man was his son, and that he was about to inherit all of his father's wealth. The son, having qualified himself by then, was overjoyed to hear this news and accepted his new position. The theological difference between the biblical account, in which the father readily accepted the son, and the Buddhist version, in which the son first had to earn the right to be recognized as worthy by the father is evident and need not detain us at this point. For our purposes we encounter the notion that a direct, warm relationship between the father and the son was considered a hindrance to the son’s preparation for his eventual status.  

This was one of four narratives that I used in my ISCA presentation to illustrate family relations, and as I go along, I'm sure I'll find a way of sneaking in the others as well.

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Wednesday, April 9th 2014


Stranded in Cortez

  • IN THE BACKDROP: Prairie Dogs

So, here we are at the American Holiday Mesa Verda Inn, located in Cortez, Colorado. This trip has been notable in a number of ways. I have been way too tired on some nights even to open the computer, let alone to compose a blog entry. I guess that will not be the case for the next few days. I will begin with reporting on today since it has been a crucial one and then catch up with previous days in later entries. Just to summarize, on our third and last day driving into the Denver area, we drove in a blizzard most of the day. The ISCA/EMNR conference went fine. Then on Sunday C.D. guided June and me around Colorado Springs and environs (I can't wait to tell you about that day!). Yesterday (Monday) we set out again and had a National-Geographic-worthy drive to Durango, Co. Then today (Tuesday) we set out from there, hoping to get to the Grand Canyon.

But first we visited Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde Park Entrance

It's almost an hour's drive navigating fairly narrow switch backs to get to the actual attractions, but there were plenty of surprises along the way. For example, there were some mule deer by the side of the road.

Mule Deer

June waited patiently while I hiked to the Spruce Pine Tree House, a partially restored pueblo area. The people who lived there from about AD 500 to no later than AD 1300 are known as the "Ancestral Pueblos." Teir economy was agricultural (maize, beans, turnips, the occasional pumpkin), supplemented by hunting. Why they left that area by the end of the thirteenth century AD is something of a puzzle. I picked up Leaving Mesa Verde, ed. by T. Kohler, et al, hoping to learn more about this phenomenon.

Spruce Pine Tree House, Mesa Verde

Those of my German readers who also are fans of Karl May may understand how excited I was to be there in addition to my academic interests in Native American cultures. (By the way, much of the area around Cortez is a part of a Ute reservation.)

A ladder led down to a "kiva," which apparently was an underground ceremonial room. Some people believe it developed out of the concept of a pit house.

Underground Kiva

After we left the park we had lunch in Cortez and then continued our drive along Highway 160 with about 40 miles to go to Arizona. Just before mile marker 15, something in our 2004 Dodge Dakota made a horrendous sound, and the engine stopped working. I managed to pull off to the side, got out and saw oil pouring onto the ground. I called our motor club, but the gentleman with whom I talked couldn't give us any help because I couldn't specify where we were. A highway number and a mile marker weren't sufficient. He wanted to know in which town we were.

Nowhere, Colorado

We were nowhere. Nowhere does have some spectacular scenery, of course--at least if you like nowhere, but the man on the phone wanted more information than I was able to provide.

Rock Formation

I was able to get hold of the state police, who immediately called for a tow truck. The trooper was extremely nice. He came out to where we were himself, which I don't think he was required to do, and made sure we were all right.

The tow truck then took us all the way back to Cortez. Our vehicle is now at the local Chrysler dealer. A preliminary diagnosis is that the crank shaft got loose and caused further havoc. It will not be cheap. Nor will it be quick. We may be here at the American Holiday Mesa Verde Inn for as long as a week. What we can do here for that time will depend on what the repair will cost, and we won't find that out until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

One consolation is that, even though Cortez would not make the top ten in America's most beautiful cities, it does have its South-Western attributes. Right outside of our motel room window, there is a small town of prairie dogs.

Prairie Dog

And on that cute note, I will end tonight's report. Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we are going through this little adventure.


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